A crucial element in the life of an aspiring music journalist is taking note of the latest albums to be released over the course of the coming year. So, when Loyle Carner announced that he was releasing his second studio album in late April, I earmarked it as one to keep very close tabs on.
And now finally the day has arrived.
There are many people out there who, on their first listening of the new album Not Waving, But Drowning, will jump at the prospect of adding the Croydon native’s slick, groove-driven beats to their various ‘mood’ playlists. But I’m afraid to say that I do not think that does this justice. For it is not simply just a casual follow up record.
It appears as if love is in the air at the moment. Following the success of James Blake’s fourth studio album Assume Form, the idea of an individual transforming their music in direct relation to their life as it manifests itself in the present has become a significant trope of current music. Pinpointing where are artist can be suitably categorised is becoming harder to articulate, as musicians break away from genre stereotypes and into a world intertwined with various sounds and inspiration
Loyle Carner is a prime example of this.
The release of three singles in preparation for his upcoming release (“You Don’t Know” featuring Rebel Kleff & Kiko Bun, “Loose Ends” featuring Jorja Smith and “Ottolenghi” featuring Jordan Rakei) saw a departure from the melancholic sound attached to Carner’s work. It is the former that represents the most significant transfiguration, demonstrating that he his more than capable of making a bright upbeat track, complimented exquisitely by Bun’s reggae-tinged production style.
The track also signifies a mature reflection on Carner’s past relationships; a theme continued in the song “Angel”. Once again, he links up with fellow South Londoner Tom Misch to produce a mellow masterpiece on leaving the naivety of adolescence behind in pursuit of love and happiness.
In and around his observations of a younger self are epiphanic moments of clarity, where the realisation of love ones lost is brought to the forefront of his consciousness. Teaming up with Jorja Smith for the song “Loose Ends”, what might appear as a forlorn coming-of-age is actually a heartfelt recognition of the support he now has around him.
And speaking of support, there is always room for levity when it comes to the South Londoner. The interlude “It’s Coming Home” has a jovial feel to it; in and amongst the anticipation of the penalty shootout, the track encompasses two of Carner’s true loves, football and family.
Although much has changed in terms of Carner’s choice of sonics, his adoration for family has not left his side. “Ottolenghi” presents us with a tear-jerking story of a young girl’s train journey, ruined by what seems to be the atmospheric nature of traditional British weather. But as she mentions this to her mother, Carner is on hand to relay some crucial advice on the importance of the rain in growth, along with tributes to his idols Roots Manuva and Yotan Ottolenghi, with Jordan’s Rakei’s poetic hook providing the cherry on top.
Parental importance is a major theme in this record, and what better way to bring it to a conclusion than a beautiful spoken work piece his mother, Jean Coyle Larner. Out of every track, this is by far and away my favourite. It reminds me of my own relationship with my mum, how she is one of the most important people in my life, full of love that is unwavering and engrained in myself forever.
After releasing his first album Yesterday’s Gone back in 2017, the Brit School graduate cemented himself as both an icon and role model for any young man living in South London. His lyrics present an honest, reflective vulnerability that made an astounding impression of myself. The ability to speak so frankly about his life experiences so far, whether that be positive or negative. Just being yourself.
Well Mr Carner, you have just got a whole lot better in my eyes.